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New Buc Logan Mankins jumps into unknown

New Bucs guard Logan Mankins watches warmups before the preseason finale against the  Redskins at Raymond James Stadium. “Only time will tell what I have here,” he says.

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

New Bucs guard Logan Mankins watches warmups before the preseason finale against the Redskins at Raymond James Stadium. “Only time will tell what I have here,” he says.

TAMPA

In time, he will be known as a warrior here, too, as a tough cuss who will fight you for every inch. In time, he might be known as the answer.

Eventually, he might even be known as the final piece on an offensive line that has been rebuilt for success.

First, however, Logan Mankins' head has to stop spinning.

He just got here, for crying out loud, ripped right out of the success of the New England Patriots. He doesn't really know Anthony Collins, the tackle who will play next to him, and he has just met Evan Dietrich-Smith, the center who will play on his other side. The colors are new to him. The weather has a clay-oven feel.

So this is Tampa Bay?

This is what is on the other side of New England?

It is easy to imagine being Mankins, the newly acquired guard of the Tampa Bay Bucs, who still seemed a little shell-shocked in his introductory news conference Thursday. And why not? For nine years he was a Patriot, one of the fine players on one of the fine teams of the NFL. He went to the playoffs eight times. He was part of teams that won 110 regular-season games. He made six Pro Bowls.

Now he is here.

And welcome to town, Logan.

He speaks softly, and like many who have played for Bill Belichick, he gives out information grudgingly. There is a little Paul Gruber to him, a big man with a small voice, a guy who seems to believe in earning his way.

"I knew what I had there," he said of New England, "but I don't know what I have here. Only time will tell what I have here."

That much is true. This is not the first time the Bucs have had lofty expectations for their offensive line. The last line, in fact, consisted of millionaires who performed like duct tape and spackle. It was perhaps the biggest disappointment of 2013.

The reconstruction of that line will tell us much about the season to come. With Mankins, with Collins, with Dietrich-Smith, with incumbent Demar Dotson and with who-knows-who as the remaining guard, there is hope the line eventually could synch into something special.

But when? Everyone is new, and offensive lines require cohesion before end zones are approached. There is a lot of jelling to be done in a short amount of time.

"It always depends on the players and the system," Mankins said. "I've never played with any of these guys, and they've never played with me. So we'll be learning on the fly. But, hey, we're professionals, and sometimes you only have a short window to get it done. That's what we're going to try to do.

"It's going to be tough. We have a week before the first game, and I'm going to take it in stride. I've got all weekend to try and get down some of the mental parts of it, and then all next week to practice. I'm sure the guys are going to help me as much as possible, and I'm going to try my best to be up to speed with those guys. I don't know if it will happen, but I'm shooting for it."

If anything can be a judge of this trade for the short term, it seems to be this: Mankins' Patriots teammates are livid about it. Even quarterback Tom Brady was reportedly "very upset" that the team shipped out Mankins when his contract could not be renegotiated.

If so, good. The Patriots certainly had their way with the Aqib Talib trade, with the LeGarrette Blount trade, with the Darrelle Revis trade. Rumor has it Belichick is wearing Greg Schiano's watch. But there can be life after the Patriots: Lawyer Milloy, Richard Seymour and Wes Welker have all had moments.

So how much life does the 32-year-old Mankins have?

Some.

"I might be in a little decline," Mankins said, grinning. "I don't know. How many guys have played 150 games and are still on the upswing? I've played a lot of games and a lot of snaps, but I think I've still got something to give this game and this team. I'll try my hardest for them. If it's not good enough, then it's not. If it is, then it is."

In the meantime, he says he has been welcomed by the Bucs. He says he is happy to be here.

"They've had a little dry spell," he said, referring to the Bucs not having won a playoff game since he was in college. "But I looked down the roster, and I looked at all the guys I'll see in the locker room. There are a lot of good players down here. There are some guys I have a lot of respect for. I've played against Lovie Smith's teams before, and they've had good teams. They're trying to get this ship going in the right direction, and hopefully I can be a part of it

"It's going to be tough for me to come take over the room like I had in New England, but I'm just going to do what I did there: Show up, go to work, do my best, and hopefully the guys accept me for the way I play and practice."

It sounds simple. The truth weighs a little more. Mankins has won more, played more and had more success than the rest of the line together. He will be expected to be the leader. He'll be expected to be tougher than the rest.

"I was always flattered when people would say I would do whatever it took for the team," Mankins said. "I always thought of myself as that kind of guy. I've played a lot of games pretty beat up, but I always felt my job was to be out there. I think that's why a lot of people always respected me in New England."

Some of that would help here, too. When is the last time a Bucs' line came across as tough? When is the last time it came across as strong?

This one might. For Mankins, that's an interesting thought as he says hello.

New Buc Logan Mankins jumps into unknown 08/28/14 [Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2014 11:50pm]
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